Ruby Walsh defends racing’s funding while hailing Willie Mullins’ class

Retired jockey Ruby Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

Ruby Walsh has launched a strong defence of racing’s Government funding amid debate about the redistribution of betting tax.

The FAI commissioned economic consultants KHSK to analyse the allocation of €1.5 billion in public funds to just two sports (horse racing and the greyhound industry) across a 20-year period (2001-2021).

Nearly a third of that came from general taxation with the remainder from the betting levy, which is generated from business on all sports – and that has drawn the ire of the FAI.

Racing prize money, which is propped up by public funds, has come under some scrutiny as a result of the recent Irish Independent exclusive but Walsh is keen to stress that “it’s not going into anybody’s pocket”.

The legendary jockey encourages people to “do the maths” before making generalisations about the finances of racing and ownership and he insists the “trickle-down economics actually add up”.

“Go down through the leading owners in Irish racing and see how far you have to go to find an owner that has won more prize-money than it has cost to keep a horse in training,” Walsh told

“Not buy his horses, just to keep the horses. You’ll be down the list and well out of the top five before you find someone in the sport that has won more money than it will cost them. It’s the level of prize-money here that partially funds the keep (horses) and then the trickle-down economics.

“So if you’re using your prize-money, the owner is using his prize-money to pay the training fees. Willie Mullins is paying all of his employees and all of his suppliers, so all of that money that’s coming out of prize-money is going straight down the food chain.

“That’s the model, it’s not going into anybody’s pocket. Willie is earning money, Paul Townend is earning money and so are all of the people that work for him but they are all paying tax on all of that too.

“It’s not this golden egg that someone is running away with. The trickle-down economics actually add up.”

Mullins, who Walsh still works for having retired from the saddle in 2019, clocked up a staggering 17 winners at the Punchestown Festival last week en route to smashing the €7million mark in prize money.

That saw the Closutton maestro land a 17th Irish champion jumps trainer title with Walsh putting his extraordinary success down to the chasing pack – including title rival Gordon Elliott – raising the bar.

“Anybody in any sport is always driven by the competition. Gordon came and made Willie up it again, but look at the smaller trainers in Ireland and the success that they’re having, they’re all driving the top forward.

“That is the brilliance of Irish jump racing. Willie is on top and he’s going to leave a mark on Irish National Hunt racing like nobody else has ever left, or will ever leave.”

Walsh hailed the achievements of the master trainer as “incredible” and detailed how the 66-year-old will now slow down the equine treadmill for a brief period before reloading.

“Does he stop at all? He does. The season does stop and he’ll have a lot of horses that will run through May, then it’ll slow down a little bit. A lot of horses will go out to grass and he has horses going to Auteuil,” Walsh said.

“He would love to win a ‘Grand Steeple’ . . . Franco De Port is going there. And he’ll have horses going to the French Champion Hurdle. Then, they’ll go out. Staff need a holiday. There’ll be a change around in the yard, it won’t be at capacity during the summer.

“But after Galway they’ll all come back in and it starts again. There’s loads of horses there that have to win. I’d say there are more rows over the worst horse in the yard than there ever is over the best.”